Xavier, one of the two central characters, keeps himself apart from the non-Aboriginal men in the company, preferring to isolate himself, and drawing strength from his recollections of the aunt who raised him, Niska, while his friend Elijah becomes increasingly boastful, basking in the praise of his superiors and his fellow soldiers. The novel moves back and forth in time as Niska attempts to nurse her nephew back to health. Lydie Jim, the character inspired by this friendship, is a Tlingit elder born near Quiet Lake in the Yukon on her parents’ trapline. The bureaucrats in attendance are singularly lacking in self-awareness and knowledge of historical context, failing to appreciate the stinging implication of his words when “The Chief thanked them for their hard work and dedication to healing and the healing process, stating for the record that if it weren’t for people like them, where would they be? Their reunion is a crucial plot point and also underlines Bartleman’s central message of healing and reconciliation. is a gritty First World War war novel partly inspired by the renowned Ojibwa sniper Francis Pegahmagabow, whose exploits were celebrated in Europe but largely forgotten when he returned to Canada and the familiar pain of racial discrimination and mistreatment. He isn’t grounded in his place or culture, and this ends up being very damaging to him” (230). This novel by non-Indigenous Ontario writer Sarah Felix Burns is based in part on a residential school survivor that Burns met at the University of British Columbia. Alexie’s novel is set in a small, northern community and portrays the lives of two close friends, James and Jake, who struggle with demons that have driven them to spend years drinking and concealing their pain in promiscuous relationships or emotional withdrawal.
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Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008. Prepared for the Indian Residential Schools Resolution of Canada.
“Canada and the Legacy of the Indian Residential Schools: Transitional Justice for Indigenous People in a Non-Transitional Society.” .
“Truth and Reconciliation: A ‘Dangerous Opportunity’ to Unsettle Ourselves.” In Younging et al. “Half-Truths and Whole Lies: Rhetoric in the ‘Apology’ and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.” In Younging et al, 219-229. (Ottawa: Law Commission of Canada, 1998), online: Library and Archives Canada Jeff and Cindy Holder. : Government Apologies, Truth Commissions, and Indigenous Self-Determination in Australia, Canada, Guatemala, and Peru.” 35.1 (March 2009): 137-159. “Exploring non-Aboriginal Attitudes towards Reconciliation in Canada: The Beginnings of Targeted Focus Group Research.” 329-339.
“Toward an Aboriginal paradigm of healing: addressing the legacy of residential schools.” .
Losses of language and culture are mourned; the younger speakers of Anishinabe have limited fluency, while some parents are choosing to raise their children–like the conscientious Dakota, Virgil’s cousin–with limited contact to First Nations’ stories and languages. Through their pursuit of their respective artistic talents–in music and dance–they attempt to overcome the complicated legacies of their childhoods. The novel deals largely with wartime, but the opening chapters are set in a residential school, and Mc Gregor portrays scenes of graphic violence featuring horrifically abusive priests and nuns.